EXCLUSIVE: CA lawmaker says it's time to 'radically change' the EDD as benefit extensions delayed

MILLBRAE, Calif. (KGO) -- This may be the most damning indictment to date of the Employment Development Department since the start of the pandemic. In an exclusive interview, State Senator Scott Wiener called for the agency to be rebuilt because it does not work.

He sees people really struggling right now. Many expected their benefits to be extended, but for too many, it just hasn't happened.

Tammy Vinton had been receiving unemployment since March of last year.

RELATED: Man has to pay $3,000 in surprise taxes after EDD withholding mistake

She asked after a year if she needed to reapply. "Do I have to file a new claim? Do I have to do anything? They said no, it will automatically roll over."

Albert Tsang worked as a banquet manager at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. His benefits stopped in September.

"And the gentleman who was probably in charge of it, he said, 'You know what, you're supposed to be getting your federal extension automatically. Let me see what I can do and do that,'" Tsang recalls.

Both are still waiting for their promised extensions.

"That is so par for the course. EDD provides information and it turns out not to be true," said State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco.

VIDEO: CA couple battles EDD bureaucracy after finding $25K in stolen unemployment money
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The huge unemployment fraud scandal at the EDD has reached into the lives of ordinary citizens. A Bay Area couple got a surprise from the EDD -- a tax form saying they owe income taxes on the benefits fraudsters claimed in their names.



Many of the jobless are left wondering and not getting answers. They're forced to wait to survive without their expected benefits.

"I've lost track of how many calls I've made. What days, different times," said Tsang.

"I've done everything I can do. And I don't -- I'm not getting paid. I need help," Vinton said.

The senator says this is not the time for patience.

"More than a year,13 months, into the part of this pandemic, and they still haven't fixed these problems," he said.

RELATED: Bay Area man loses all his benefits after returning EDD overpayment

Neither Tsang or Vinton have time to be patient.

"It's draining my savings. As I described in my email, I'm reaching the end of my rope," Tsang said.

"I feel like I'm going to lose my house. I'm going to call every day. But I have to tell you, it wears on your mental status," said Vinton.

Wiener called for swift change to the EDD.

"It needs to be radically changed or dissolved or rebuilt. Or restructured because it does not work. It is a broken agency," said the senator.

RELATED: EDD misclassifies Bay Area woman struggling to get benefits for 15 months

In response, EDD said: "This department has made tremendous progress in the face of historic logistical challenges."

EDD has paid a total of $2.7 billion in extended federal benefits in just over a month, and $137 billion since the start of the pandemic.

It pledged to improve.

Wiener says everyone must take responsibility for the EDD and says the buck stops with the legislature and governor.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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